My position on the Illinois Prisoner Review Board requires, in part, that I make decisions that impact the lives of the people I come into contact with every time I step foot into a correctional facility or hearing room. Most days of the week, I meet with young men of color who have violated a mandated condition of their parole and now look to me to more or less “decide their fate”. Will they receive another chance? Not always, and when that happens; when the decision to return someone to prison is unavoidable, it is intentionally done with compassion and often accompanied with a dose of mother wit. At this point you might be asking how am I able to show love and compassion for these men, these repeat offenders, these (you fill in the blank), and why. It’s easy. I see my son in each and every one of them. I see the life and potential lost in him now living and breathing right in front of me and I see an opportunity to say what can never be said to Darren – LIVE young man!
You see, I was appointed to this position, in part, because of the work I’ve done over the past couple of years through the organization founded in honor of Darren’s life. It serves not only to address the unresolved trauma of those impacted by the loss of a loved one to gun violence but it also serves to redefine my son’s legacy. And since his passing, over six years ago, I’ve often thought that maybe, just maybe if there had been someone (someone other than me) who might have spoken life into my son maybe, again just maybe he would have made some different decisions and could quite possibly still be alive today and thriving, but the truth is that will never be the case. So in picking up the pieces of my love for my son that remain, I choose to speak life to the young men I encounter in the same prison where my son once sat many years ago. I am forever grateful for this experience to impact lives in this way.
So while thinking and driving I found myself immersed in the awareness of these two things I know for sure 1) the Father does not waste a single experience of our lives and 2) my life is not my own and for these things I am again, forever grateful.